Things To Know Before Car Maintenance

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Car maintenance is crucial for avoiding costly repairs in the future. Tune-ups, oil changes, belt replacement and flushing your cooling system might seem expensive when you are taking your car in for maintenance, but it's a price you must pay to avoid having your car breakdown on you. The last thing you want is to be stranded in the middle of nowhere because your car stopped working. However, before you pay another visit to the auto shop for some routine car maintenance, there are a few things you should know first that can save you a little money.

Follow the Schedule in Your Owner's Manual

Auto repair shops tend to have their own set of universal maintenance schedules when servicing a customer's car. A perfect example of this would be the little oil change sticker many auto shops leave on the corner of your windshield window. Virtually every auto shop will request that you return for another routine oil change every 3,000 miles. The 3,000 mile oil change has been a widely known and acknowledged interval for routine oil changes for many years.

However, with changes in automobile technology, the 3,000 mile oil change is becoming obsolete. Depending on driving conditions, many automakers are suggesting a 5,000 to 10,000 mile interval between oil changes. In other words, you are wasting money by following the auto shops car maintenance schedule. For proper car maintenance, all you have to do is follow the schedule included in your owner's manual.

More Expensive Doesn't Always Mean Better

Many car owners are easily convinced to opt for the name brand or top of the line auto parts and fluids to be used on their vehicles when they take them in for maintenance. Synthetic oils and coolants purchased directly from the car manufacturer all sound appealing, but aren't really necessary. While these parts and components may be of a slightly higher quality, the effect they will have on the vehicle will be very minimal to the average car owner.

Some believe that the more they pay, the less likely they will suffer a car breakdown. While under extreme conditions, high end auto parts are added insurance for engine abuse, they aren't really needed. Opting for common, more affordable parts and products will still get the job done as long as they meet the factory specification for your vehicle.

Know How to Read the Car Maintenance Bill

One major misstep car owners make is not fully understanding their maintenance bill. Believing that it takes an actual mechanic to understand the technical jargon on their bill, many are quick to hand over cash or credit and sign off on work done to their vehicle. Before you pay or sign anything, at least attempt to read what you are paying for. If you don't understand something on your bill, ask someone at the shop for clarification. Also look over the price paid for parts and labor, since these two are always billed separately. The last thing you want is to pay and sign off to work done on your vehicle that you never authorized.

Going to the Dealer Costs More

Taking your car in for maintenance at the dealership is almost always more expensive than going to a private auto shop. The reason for the price hike is typically a higher cost for labor and more expensive car parts since the dealership only uses original factory parts directly from the car manufacturer. Many dealerships entice their vehicle owners with car wash services, comfortable waiting areas replete with wireless internet, free coffee and snacks. They also look far more appealing and are a lot less dirty, giving people the comfort and peace of mind that their car will be safe and sound. If you feel that all of these little perks and niceties are well worth the cost, then you should continue to use your dealership for routine car maintenance. However, if you're looking to save some money and you don't mind sitting in a grimy, little waiting room with nothing but a water dispenser and a TV stuck on local news, then you should look into a privately owned auto shop.

Last Updated: July 23, 2012
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About Matthew Cenzon Matthew Cenzon has been writing for numerous publications since 2003, covering topics ranging from health and nutrition to the real estate industry. He is one of the contributing writers for, and is a college graduate of the University of California, Riverside, with degrees in English and Asian literature. Matthew’s interest in interior design and home improvement stem from his background working in the residential real estate appraisal business for over five years, where he witnessed many of the Do's and Don'ts of home decor.

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